God is incredibly merciful. So much so that we have a hard time understanding Him.
David’s son Absalom attempted to steal the kingdom from him. At first David fled from Absalom. In time though, he sent his army after Absalom. But, he told them to protect Absalom. When Joab, one of David’s military commanders, hears that the army found Absalom stuck in a tree, he pierces Absalom with three javelins.
Now, Absalom had quite the past – covering up his sister’s rape by his half-brother, murdering said half-brother, and attempting to steal the kingdom from his father. Yet, in 2 Samuel 19, David is weeping and mourning for Absalom, grieving for his son.
David’s actions completely confound and anger Joab. In 2 Samuel 19:5-6, Joab says, “You have today covered with shame the faces of all your servants, who have this day saved your life and the lives of your sons and your daughters and the lives of your wives and your concubines, because you love those who hate you and hate those who love you. For you have made it clear today that commanders and servants are nothing to you, for today I know that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased.”
“Because you love those who hate you and hate those who love you.” This statement from Joab is what really struck me. David loved Absalom even though he had acted so wickedly toward him. David felt compassion and mercy to Absalom that Joab could not understand. Joab saw David’s mercy as shameful. To Joab it seemed that David loved those who hated him which equated to David hating those who him.
I think this statement from Joab is a window into how we view God at times. We say, “If you love those who hate me, then you must hate me even though I love you.” We have a hard time understanding how God can love all.
Later in 2 Samuel 19, we read of another instance of this very phenomenon. In 2 Samuel 16, Shimei cursed David. At the time David rejected the idea of killing Shimei. Then, in chapter 19, Shimei comes to meet David and falls before the king in worship. But, Abishai, one of David’s military commanders, says, “Shall not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed the Lord’s anointed?”
David responds, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah [speaking to Abishai], that you should this day be as an adversary to me? Shall anyone be put to death in Israel this day? For do I knot know that I am this day king over Israel?” David knows that Shimei cursed him, called him a murderer, and rejected him as king over Israel. But, David knows he’s king. Therefore, why does he need to kill Shimei to prove it?
David’s statement to Abishai recalls Jesus’ word to James and John. Luke 9:51-54 says, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village.”
Jesus knew he was king. He didn’t need his servants to call fire down from heaven to consume those who had rejected him to prove it.
I think David’s actions are just two small pictures of God’s love and mercy. God’s love and mercy goes much, much further than any of us can imagine. He is not like us. God thoughts are not our thoughts.